"Emmanuel: God With Us"


27 The Trial

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven Matthew 26:63, 64

In the events that led up to and included Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, we reach the high point of the everlasting covenant. These events express the deep truths underlying the legal foundations of Israel and the Church. These truths are easily understood, yet their meaning challenges the greatest minds.

Through these events the fiercest battle of the “great controversy between Christ and Satan” were fought. The purpose of the everlasting covenant would be accomplished. Christ, the victim, would arise from the grave, the victor and the champion for all creation and for all time.


Willingly Arrested!

Jesus came to pay the penalty of the broken law that human beings might live. In doing so, He would establish the government of God upon love, mercy, justice, and free will. Freedom and happiness would be forever restored.

There are clues in the trials themselves that reveal Jesus’ purpose. In Gethsemane, when accosted by the mob, Jesus identified Himself. “As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he; they went backward and fell to the ground” (John 18:6). This demonstrates that Jesus could have walked away, but He chose not to.

When it appeared that Jesus would not defend Himself, “Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10). Jesus immediately stopped Peter and healed Malchus’ ear. Jesus knew that His hour had come, and He determined to meet it with no unforeseen delays.


A Preliminary Night Trial in Annas’ Court

At midnight, Jesus had a hearing before the court of Annas. Annas tried to establish a charge of sedition as he questioned Jesus directly. Even though a prisoner was not to be convicted on his own testimony, Annas pursued this end.1 Aghast at this illegality, Jesus said:

I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said. (John 18:20, 21)

Spies had continually followed Jesus. Why not call them to testify? Jesus denied saying anything in secret. This silenced Annas, embarrassed the court, and almost stopped the proceedings. Jesus knew that His hour had come. Many times in His ministry, He had met these men and exposed their ignorance, hypocrisy, and criminal intent. Now He could not delay what must be done.

He remembered the prophecy, “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). From this point on, He was careful not to defend Himself. There were at least 300 prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. Eighteen verses in Matthew show fulfillment of prophecy. In eleven of these, the fulfillment can be attributed to the foreknowledge of God. In the other seven, Jesus took direct action to fulfill prophecy.2


With Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin

Caiaphas next examined Jesus in the presence of the Sanhedrin, though he had not notified Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The Sanhedrin were not all against Jesus. Those who did not oppose Him would need to be persuaded, and Caiaphas had a hard time doing so. Both Annas and Caiaphas failed to obtain a conviction from the vague and contradictory witnesses who testified (Matt. 26:59-61). The evidence they offered was not sufficient to obtain a sentence of death either by Romans or Jewish standards! Caiaphas was getting desperate.

Caiaphas decided to question Jesus Himself. “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26:63). Caiaphas issued this charge with an oath. Jesus knew that His answer would condemn Him to death, but He also knew that millions throughout the coming ages would hear it. Through it, many would come to believe on Him.

“Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).

Caiaphas suddenly saw himself confronted with his own judgment and with Jesus as His judge. He paled in terror at the thought. With malignant hatred, Caiaphas tore his robe and declared, “What further need have we of witnesses?” (Matt. 26:65). Upon Jesus’ own testimony, the Sanhedrin issued a hasty determination of blasphemy, a sin worthy of death. Jewish law required two witnesses to convict a person. In convicting Jesus, the ruling members of the Sanhedrin violated Scriptural juridical principles.

The flawed character of Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, and Pilate were pitiful to behold. Jesus did not ignore them. In each of His responses was an appeal for His judge to believe in Him for salvation. People build character by exercising faith in the day-to-day temptations of life. They build character as they consent to the work of grace in their life. Their response in the crisis displays their true character.


Cocksure Peter

During this time, Peter and John managed to gain entrance to the court. John did not attempt to hide his identity while Peter tried unsuccessfully to mingle with the crowd. Three times, bystanders asked Peter if he were a believer. The third time, Peter answered with cursing and swearing, “I know not the man.” Immediately, the cock crowed (Matt. 26:74). “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter,” and “Peter went out and wept bitterly” (John 22:61, 62). Jesus’ loving look broke Peter’s heart, and forever after he willingly and enthusiastically confessed Jesus as his Lord!3

All during this tragic affair, there only One who was calm and serene, only One who knew where He was going and who was in control. Jesus came to this world to give His life a ransom for many. Throughout each trial, He held His peace and did not defend Himself, allowing the Father to direct affairs. Yet, there was one thing He could do, and this He did do. He gave evidence to all participants that He was the Son of God, and He appealed to their souls.

Did Jesus’ sacrifice need the help of human beings? Was not Jesus’ death prophesied? Was not His death necessary in the plan of salvation, chartered “from the foundation of the world”? The Bible tells us that God Himself will see to the outworking of His covenant and that His plans are best. Human devising was not necessary. God did not need human beings to ensure that Jesus’ sacrifice would take place.4 “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matt. 26:24).


Pilate Plays to the Crowd

Pilate quickly noted that Jesus was no ordinary prisoner; He took Jesus’ case very seriously. Yet, he was at a disadvantage. Worldly people just cannot understand the issues of the church, and it is not fair to embarrass them by asking them to resolve the church’s affairs. However, in this situation, Pilate not only assessed Jesus correctly, but he also knew the Jews. He quickly concluded that Jesus was innocent and unworthy of punishment of any kind, much less death. Pilate tried repeatedly--almost desperately- to save Jesus.

In Pilate’s hearing, Jesus explained the nature of His kingdom. Jesus was not interested in worldly affairs. The charge of sedition was bogus. Pilate believed Jesus and tried to save Him. However, he lacked courage and was unwilling to sacrifice his position for truth. God sent a dream to Pilate’s wife, who attempted to warn her husband, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man” (Matt. 27:19). Pilate attempted to reason with the unreasonable mob, but to no avail. He washed his hands, as if so doing would lessen his guilt. He declared Jesus innocent, yet he had Him scourged and given over to the mob for crucifixion. One can only pity Pilate’s weakness under pressure.5

As Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence, the mob, led by the high priest Caiaphas, roared back, “His blood be on us, and on our children” (Matt. 27:25).6 They could not know then how prophetic were their words. As soldiers led Jesus out for the crucifixion, He was unable to bear the cross. Soldiers forced Simon of Cyrene to carry His cross. It is said that this act of kindness changed Simon’s life. Ever after, he considered it a blessing to have carried Jesus’ cross.

Nailed to the cross and hanging between two thieves, Jesus recognized the faith of one who appealed to Him to be remembered in His kingdom. He gave him mercy and the assurance of paradise (Luke 23:42, 43). As Jesus died, the rough centurion confessed, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54).

In all this, Jesus’ love showed through as He gave person after person the opportunity to confess Him and be saved. Pilate, especially, had an incredible opportunity to confess Jesus, but he did not have the strength required to stand up for what he knew to be right.


Herod, Curious But Unmoved

When Pilate found that Jesus was from Galilee, he sent Him to Herod, the governor over Galilee who happened to be visiting during the Passover. Herod was glad to see Jesus. He had heard of Him, and he wanted to see Him perform a miracle. When Jesus arrived, Herod questioned Him at length. All the while, the chief priests and scribes assailed Jesus, and the soldiers of Herod insulted Jesus and made Him an object of sport. But Jesus did not respond; he did not attempt to even speak to Herod.

Why was this? Did not Herod have a soul, at least as valuable as that of Caiaphas or Pilate? Why did not Jesus reach for Herod’s soul as He did for the other inquisitors? The answer is that it would do no good. This was the Herod who had beheaded John the Baptist and murdered members of his own family. Friends warned Jesus, on His last trip to Jerusalem, that Herod wanted to kill Him. Jesus’ metaphor for the ruler is telling. He said, “Go ye, and tell that fox “|” (Luke 13:32). Jesus was rarely this blatant in describing others. However, the time came when He called the scribes and Pharisees “hypocrites” (“actors” or “pretenders”) and “a generation of vipers” (Matt. 12:34; 23:33). When Herod beheaded John the Baptist, he cut off his last avenue to Heaven. He had closed his own probation, and God could no longer reach him. Knowing this, Jesus “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9).

A few who were present as participants or onlookers during Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, such as Peter, Simon of Cyrene, the thief on the cross, and perhaps the centurion, gave their hearts to God. The vast majority, such as the chief priests and scribes, increased in obstinate rebellion. For many this was the close of their probation and the loss of salvation. Pitiful weak and fearful Pilate simply failed to do the right thing. When God speaks to the heart, one must promptly do the right thing, regardless of the circumstances.


Endnotes

1. The Sanhedrin violated Scriptural juridical principles (Deut. 17:6; 19:15-19; Prov. 18:13; Matt. 26:59-61, John 7:51).

2. Eighteen verses in Matthew show fulfillment of prophecy. Eleven are attributed to the foreknowledge of God (Matt. 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 5:17, 18; 21:4; 24:34; 27:9, 35). In seven, Jesus purposely acted to fulfill prophecy (Matt. 3:15; 8:17; 12:17; 13:13, 14, 35; 26:54-56).

3. Peter denied His Lord (Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27).

4. Human agents were not required for Jesus’ crucifixion (Matt. 26:24; cf. Luke 17:1; 22:22).

5. After his first examination, Pilate asked Jesus, “Art thou the king of the Jews?” (Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33). Jesus answered, “Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” (John 8:34) Pilate deflected any personal interest and asked, “What hast thou done?” Jesus responded, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36).

Pilate responded, “Art thou a king then?” Jesus said, “Thou sayest, that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). Pilate responded, “What is truth?” Then he walked out to the crowd and said, -| I find in Him no fault at all,” and then attempted to release Jesus instead of Barabbas (Matt. 27:17, 18; Luke 23:4; John 18:38-40). When the people said they preferred Barabbas over Jesus, Pilate asked, “What evil hath he done?” (Matt. 27:21-23). Then Pilate tried to pass the responsibility off to another, sending Jesus to Herod. When Herod tried Jesus and found no cause of death in Him, he returned Him to Pilate.

Finally, Pilate said, “I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him, and let him go” (Luke 23:20- 22). Pilate’s soldiers scourged Jesus, gave Him a crown of thorns, and then Pilate brought him out, saying “I find no fault in him. “| Behold the man!”| Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him” (John 19:4-6). The Jews cry out, “He made himself the Son of God.” Recognizing that there was more than humanity in Jesus, “Pilate sought to release him” (John 19:7, 12). Pilate tried to release him one more time, saying: “Behold your King! “| Shall I crucify your King?” The Jewish rulers retorted, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:14, 15).

The sign Pilate had the soldiers install over the cross was his response to their duplicity: “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). It was a statement of Jesus’ crime that Pilate would not change. 6. “When Pilate declared himself innocent of the blood of Christ, Caiaphas answered defiantly, “˜His blood be on us, and on our children.’ The awful words were taken up by the priests and rulers, and echoed by the crowd in an inhuman roar of voices. The whole multitude answered and said, “˜His blood be on us, and on our children.’” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 738).